Held every year in September after the Independence weekend, the Hiri Moale festival celebrates the long-enduring maritime journeys of the past with traditional dances and reconstructions of the lagatoi sailboats pulling on Ela Beach. A beautifull and unique celebration honouring the centuries-old customs of the Motu people.
« A very long time ago, a man called Edai Siabo from the village of Boera was returning from fishing when a giant eel appeared and instructed him to build a big sailing canoe, to fill it with clay pots and to sail following the south-east trade wind called the Laurabada. Without waiting, Edai built the boat, left his wife and sailed up the coast with his friends into the waters of the Gulf of Papua. After months of absence, Edai finally return to Boera as a hero, his sailing boat full of the goods that he traded with the Gulf neighbouring tribes. »
Since more than 40 years, the Hiri Moale festival celebrates one of the most epic and stunning journey of the Pacific Ocean
This legend mark the start of one of the most epic and stunning journey of the Pacific Ocean. For centuries, the Motu-Koita people – the first inhabitants of Central Province and the Port Moresby area – used to sail to Kerema in the Gulf Province to trade clay pots and arm shells for sago and the other garden foods. Giant hand built multi-hulled sailing canoes with a typical crab claw sailknown as Lagatoior Lakatoiwere especially built for those long trading journeys. Loaded with merchandise, the ships went up the coast between September and November, taking advantage of the regularity of the south-east winds called Laurabada. Staying for several months with their trading partners, the sailors returned between February and March with the southwestern breezes of the new season, named Lahara, favorable to the return. Surrounded by magic, taboos and superstitions, these long epic journeys, once the center of social, family and mercantile relations in the region, have finally disappeared – with the development of the means of communication and the progress of agriculture – in the mid-twentieth century.
Nowadays, the Hiri Moale is held every year at Ela Beach to honors this maritime odyssey and the centuries-old customs of the Motu people. After independence in 1975, the Hiri Moale Festival was established and features sailing competitions, traditional dances and music, the election of Hiri Hanenamo,a beauty pageant that celebrates motuan beauty and cultural knowledge, arts and crafts exhibition and the arrival of a reproduction of a Lakatoi built by a surrounding village.Motu-Koita people, as the indigenous land owners of Port Moresby, are proud to keep this tradition alive as a mark of respect and celebrates the courage, bravery discipline and determination as well as friendships of the ancestors of the city.
• Location: Ela Beach
• Third week end of September.
• Every year, one or two Lakatoi are built by one of the 26 Motu-Koïta villages surrounding Port Moresby.